Persecution committed by the Soviet Union in Estonia in 1940-1941

​Immediately after Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940, the Soviet security forces started arresting people who were considered to be political enemies. In June 1940 at least 30, in July, 123 and in August, 117 people were detained. By the end of 1940, a total of over 1000 people lost their freedom. During the first year of occupation the arrests focused on certain categories. The first to suffer were the members of the political police of the Republic of Estonia, the military leadership, former White Russian emigrants and the Estonian political elite.

From among the former state elders of the Republic of Estonia (altogether 11), nine were arrested during that first year of occupation. To avoid this fate, Otto Strandmann committed suicide; only August Rei escaped, having successfully fled to Sweden in June 1940. By the end of 1942, all the arrested state elders had either been shot or died in prison, except Konstantin Päts, who was in prison in Russia. Additionally, two thirds of the former ministers of the Republic were persecuted between June 1940 and June 1941 including 10 of the 11 members of the last government, as were about half of the members of the last pre-occupation parliament and half of the members of the court of justice. Half of the higher-ranking civil servants, county governors and one sixth of rural municipality mayors suffered a similar fate.

At the end of 1940, the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation of 1926 was established in Soviet Estonia. This was applied retroactively for deeds committed in the Republic of Estonia, which were not regarded as crimes then, but which were stipulated as such in the Russian Federation Criminal Code. For example, everybody who had taken part in the War of Independence 20 years previously and had fought against Russia, could now be convicted for anti-Soviet activities.

Between June 1940 and October 1941, a total of 9,400 people were arrested by the Soviet authorities. About 2000–2200 of them were killed in Estonia, the rest was sent to Russian prison camps, where the majority died within a few years and only a few managed to return home after the war. Most of those killed were shot in July 1941 in Tallinn prisons, shortly before the Soviet authorities fled from Estonia. Besides these victims, about 10,000 were deported on 14 June 1941.

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